Aquino to meet with China's Hu at APEC
MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Benigno Aquino III will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vladivostok, Russia, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario confirmed Saturday morning, September 8.
In a press briefing aired over state-run radio dzRB, Del Rosario said the format has been finalized, but the Philippine government is still awaiting a final date and time for the meeting. “It will take place,” he assured reporters, noting that it will likely happen on Sunday, September 9, since half of Saturday is over.
Del Rosario said “reasonable time” was alloted for the meeting, but no agenda was agreed upon beforehand. The territorial disputes between the two countries, he noted, is “a subject that's difficult to avoid in a discussion between the Philippines and China.”
But Del Rosario recounted an agreement between Aquino and Hu, during the Philippine leader's state visit to China in 2011, that the South China Sea dispute is “not the sum total” of their relations.
The two countries maintain strong economic ties, for instance, with China as the Philippines' third biggest trading partner.
“What we'd like to happen is to go back to that agreement, which essentially states that both leaders will try to move forward the bilateral agenda, and abstract the contentious issues and deal with (those) separately,” Del Rosario said.
Their new meeting will take place under unique circumstances, after the Scarborough Shoal dispute in April pulled Philippine-China diplomacy to its lowest point.
China also sees Aquino as more "provocative" than his predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was "considerably more receptive to Beijing's commercial incentives and was apparently willing to compromise Philippine claims in response,” said the International Crisis Group in its latest report on the South China Sea.
“China sees the Aquino government's stronger stance as provocative, and has responded by increasing its presence in disputed areas,” the think-tank said.
Meanwhile, earlier on Saturday, Hu urged all Asia-Pacific countries to maintain peace and stability in the region.
"To maintain peace and stability as well as the sound momentum of economic growth in the Asia-Pacific, it is in the interests of all countries in the region. It is our shared responsibility," Hu said in a speech at APEC.
Asia-Pacific leaders meet for annual talks on Saturday, hoping to present a united front amid a gloomy world economy but with team spirit frayed by increasingly hostile territorial rows.
The APEC summit, which this year is held in the Russian Far East port city of Vladivostok, is meant to build goodwill among the 21 members in their effort to break down trade barriers.
In his departure speech, Aquino said the APEC summit will allow the Philippines to invite investors "to do business in the country." "The capital they will invest in our country will help build a strong foundation for the future of our people," the President said. – Rappler.com, with reports from Agence France-Presse